Scotland. A place I had never been, a place I had only ever dreamed. From the otters of the coast, to the red deer of the highlands. The golden eagles of Skye and the successfully reintroduced white-tailed sea eagles. Not to mention red squirrels. Everybody loves these cheeky rusty-red rodents. Scotland is also probably the last remaining vast wilderness of the UK. With only four days to explore, one would do well to see all of Scotlands big 5, and with a day dedicated to climbing Ben Nevis, I was expecting to only get a taste of what this country has to offer.
Keswick bound in the early hours of the morning. Skeins of geese, deceits of lapwing and small starling murmurations entertain from the window I gaze from. Four hours of driving, and soon we are surrounded by the burned oranges and browns of the moors that scatter the sides of the whispy cloud topped mountains. Rugged and sharp peaked. Speckled with sheep. A particular favourite of Sky's. Which meant keeping her on the lead, or at least attached to Buddy or Bella...Our first ascent was Catbells, after a walk around Derwent Water.
|Swimming Race; Buddy vs Sky|
|Boat on Derwent|
|View from Catbells|
|Gull on the rocks|
Despite the window being open all night, and the fact my legs did not really fit into my bed sheets exposing my feet, my ankles felt unusually warm as I woke. The warmth soon became a desire to itch, and on closer inspection, twelve mosquito bites peppered my skin. Leaving after breakfast, we sat and watched gulls as they chased each other, stealing a dying brown oak leaf from one and other.
Before the long journey ahead to Pitlochry, we took a stroll to Friars Crag. The perfect viewing point across Derwent Water. Couples romantically rowed across the lake in wooden boats, surrounded by the still of the water, the freshness of the valley air, and overlooked by the fells that surround the water.
|House on the Water|
|View from Friars Crag|
Upon crossing the Scottish border, the first thing I noticed were the turbines built across the vast rolling hills, harnessing the winds energy.
|A road through Scotland|
Signs featured images of capercaillie, eagles and red squirrels on the forest edges. The thought of these animals excited me. Although, I held no expectations of what I would see and where. A lone hooded crow scavenged on the strip of grass separating the traffic. As we drove along Loch Tummel to our campsite at Tummel Bridge, the sun set at its Western tip. Low, the sun's light cast shadows across the length of the Loch, the singed yellow-orange of ferns glowed amongst the deep green pine forests.
I took a late-night stroll to the bridge over the river flowing to the Loch. The air dead calm, the absence of light heightened my hearing; tawny owls called from the tree tops. I sat on the bridge, listening to the water rushing below, the stars bright before the moon began to rise above the pine. A beautifully peaceful evening.
|Tummel River and the night sky|
We got up before the sun had risen, and began the long drive to Fort William through the glorious wild landscape. As the sun broke above the horizon, the mist lifted from the valleys, blown up mountain sides by the winds. Clouds hugged the peaks. Soon, we would join the clouds at the top.
|Clouds in the valleys|
|Loch Linnhe, Fort William|
I have never sweated so much. The terrain was not difficult, just the air thick and the sun intense for September. My clothes became sodden, salt dripped from my nose and my large eyebrows failed me as my sweat stung my eyes.
|Halfway up Ben Nevis|
Before we reached the peak, mountain rescue had to air lift someone who had a heart attack, but was successfully resuscitated by some passing mountaineers. Snow still lingered in the odd crevice. The wind had a refreshing bite, which soon dried my clothes allowing me to layer up. A small flock of what I believed to be snow bunting, flew out from the mist, over our heads and disappeared back into the mist.
Only now do I really appreciate having been stood at the highest point of Britain. I have had more enjoyable walks as the views were obscured by cloud, and the wildlife pretty thin pickings. But it is an achievement none the less.
|A rare moment of clarity on the peak|